Posts by slapin

Brains, Heart and Courage

July 27th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 18 comments

Wednesday morning’s Wall Street Journal crossword puzzle had the following clue: “Cowardly lion’s lack.” As a child, I watched the Wizard of Oz annually on TV followed by recurring nightmares, but it has been many years since I saw it. As I dredged my memory, I remembered the Scarecrow wanting a brain and the Tin Man needing a heart, but it took a few seconds to translate the lion’s desire for courage into the five-letter word, nerve.

I used to regularly read the Wall Street Journal over breakfast. Since they introduced their crossword puzzle in the main section, that gets my attention first. Instead of frustrating and depressing news, my brain gets a work-out. But this clue led me down the path of  replacing the words ‘cowardly lion’ with Republican Congress. Actually, the Republicans need brains, heart and courage, qualities they either lack or hide from sight (conceal: 23 across).

I understand that most politicians of both parties want to ensure their own re-election. Maybe it is even true that overall they will be better for the country than ‘the other guy,’ even if to do so they need to hide, duck (evade: 14 down), weave and bob from tough positions. Some are good people and hard workers who just aren’t articulate; others don’t even realize how enmeshed they are in a corrupting system that confers unhealthy levels of power. Most politicians don’t have what it takes to be truly visionary and wise leaders. But for a party to have not even one person who can stand up and cut through the fog to speak passionately about healthcare in a forceful, caring and intelligent way? That party is an embarrassment.

Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that the movie Dunkirk is showing now. I haven’t seen it, but World War II is a part of history that is somewhat known to most people. Here is a tragic fact about war. When soldiers in World War II marched off to fight, they knew that they might not come back. The sweethearts, wives and children they left behind might end up filling the resulting void in their lives with someone not as worthy as the soldier who sacrificed his life. Going to war was still the right thing to do. In the bigger picture, it was the only thing to do for the sake of those very sweethearts, wives and children. The survival of their nation was at stake.

Healthcare is a huge issue that cannot be reduced to slogans. The slogans the Obama administration used to push it were often intentional lies such as, “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too.”  Any reasonable person could see that wouldn’t be the case. That anyone principled or intelligent could vote for a plan that their leader, Nancy Pelosi, said had to be passed before it could be understood is downright mind-boggling.

Most Americans understand that no plan will be perfect. But if each and every politician would vote by placing brains, heart and courage above the desire to be re-elected or to amass money and/or power, we could start down a path to actually improving health-care in this nation. And yes, on this and other pressing issues, while clearly we, thank God, are not at war in a literal sense, I do think national survival is at stake. The two political parties currently represent dramatically different paths for the country. While the establishments of both parties are out of touch with regular Americans, decisions being made today will lead America on a path that embraces the country’s founding ideals or overturns them.

If politicians lose their next election, they still have lives to live (with cushy pensions).  That option is often not available to those who patriotically marched (and continue to march) off to any of our country’s wars. That the Republicans don’t have a Churchill is clear, but surely the Chamberlains should be disgraced.

I apologize for my tone. I know I sound utterly frustrated and quite disgusted with both political parties. I am. At least on this question, most Americans agree.

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How My Israeli Children Are Different from Me – guest post

July 25th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 1 comment

I love reading the blog posts of a woman who writes from Israel under the name “Jewish Mom.” She has given permission to repost what she wrote after the slaughter of the Salomon family at their home on Friday night. I have put an asterisk next to terms that may be unfamiliar to many of you and written a glossary at the bottom. I apologize if that makes the article more difficult to read, but I think it very worthwhile.

When I was growing up in Baltimore, I learned which neighborhoods were safe and which neighborhoods were dangerous. Which places I could go to, and which places I should carefully avoid.

And since I moved to Israel 24 years ago, I’ve been doing the same thing.

When I heard that 2 Israeli police officers had been shot to death and, later, there was rioting in and surrounding the Old City, I shook my head with concern and decided to nix the outing I had been planning to daven* this week at the Kotel*. When I heard that 3 members of the Solomon family celebrating the Shalom Zachar* of a newborn baby boy, were murdered by an Arab terrorist around the corner from my daughter’s high school in Neve Tsuf, I got more scared and started keeping our doors and windows locked at all times.

Looking out for Number One, just like when I was growing up.

But my kids and kids around Israel have been responding differently to the recent tragedies here…

Yesterday, my bat mitzvah girl’s summer camp cancelled their planned outing to the Jerusalem Forest and took all the girls to the Kotel instead.

Another daughter’s youth group decided to move the location of the scavenger hunt they had planned from downtown Jerusalem to the Old City.

And it’s not just my kids.

Yesterday, several high school girls approached me and my daughter when we were in a store and handed us a slip of paper they had prepared with a psalm, urging us to read it for the safety and security of Am Yisrael*.

Then this morning at the light-rail station, some elementary school girls handed me a toffee attached to a note that read, “The Race to a Million Blessings: Say a blessing over this toffee for the elevation of the souls of the Solomon family victims HY”D*.”

Seeing how my kids and their peers are reacting to current events has made me realize that when I get scared, I do what I did when I was growing up. I look out for Number One. I stay away from the Old City, I lock my doors, I nervously check out the Arab passengers standing beside me on the light rail (that man’s too old to pull out a knife, that woman’s with her baby, so there’s no way she’s about to start stabbing people with a pair of scissors.)

And these Israeli kids, in their own way, are also looking out of Number One. But their Number One, I’m realizing, is different than mine. For them, their Number One is Am Yisrael* and Eretz Yisrael*. The Jewish people and the Land of Israel. And praying for Hashem’s protection and mercy upon them.

A year and a half ago there was a terror attack next to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate, and the young father of a large family was brutally murdered while walking home from work. That Friday night, my then 15-year-old daughter informed me after candle-lighting that she and her friends were going to daven at a minyan* next to Jaffa Gate that night.

And I told her: “You can’t go to Jaffa Gate! There was just a terror attack there yesterday!”

“Eema*,” she responded slowly, as if speaking to someone who didn’t fully understand her language, “of course I know there was a terror attack there. That’s why we’re going there!”

I recently heard a French-born father of 11 Israeli children speaking about what it’s like moving to Israel. And this what he said:

“Moving to Israel is like climbing a very high mountain. You are climbing and climbing, you are breathing hard and sweating from the steep climb. And then you achieve the impossible–you reach the top. And when you get there, you sit down to catch your breath, and you turn around and find your children sitting there, at the peak.

‘How did you possibly make the climb up here? It was so steep and high and difficult!’ you ask them.

And your children answer you, ‘We didn’t have to climb at all. We were born here.’”

*Glossary:

daven: pray

Kotel: The Western Wall; The Wailing Wall

Shalom Zachar: a celebration that takes place the Friday night after a baby’s birth

HY”D: God will avenge their blood

Am Yisrael: the nation (people) of Israel

Eretz Yisrael: the land of Israel

minyan: a prayer group

Eema: Hebrew for Mommy

 

Self-Made Women

July 20th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 15 comments

The cover story headline on Forbes magazine, America’s Richest Self-Made Women caught my attention. Surely, the stories of the sixty women listed would shine a light on women and money. It did, though I’m not sure that what I saw will make social engineers happy.

Here are some sentences from the top four bios:

#1) Ilitch and her husband, Mike…cofounded Little Caesars pizza… (Marian Ilitch)

#2) The Wisconsin native cofounded the business with her late husband, Ken… ( Diane Hendricks)

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I’m Not Scary; Are You?

July 13th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 68 comments

There is a blog I regularly read because doing so makes me a better person. In it, a mother details with great honesty her emotions and experiences as she and her husband raise a son with serious disabilities and a, thankfully, healthy daughter.

She and I have never met, yet she is afraid of me and my family. Afraid of our support for repealing Obamacare, of our support for President Trump and of our conservative leanings.

I have two children in the medical profession. They talk of their emotions and experiences as they are hindered and frustrated by a bloated, bureaucratic and unsustainable system. They talk of their emotions and experiences as they try to help seriously ill patients and are instead forced to tend to those abusing the system, unnecessarily consuming tens of thousands of dollars and hours of human resources. They  talk of their emotions and experiences at caring for patients who act self-destructively, thus counteracting the help they have just been given, after monopolizing resources that, subsequently, were not available for others. My children have never met the woman whose blog I read. They are not afraid of her, but they see her voting patterns and liberal leanings as harmful to them and those for whom they care.

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Thousands will Die

July 13th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

The pop-up on my computer suggests that  I contact my Congressmen to tell him not to tangle with Obamacare. Seemingly, the same Republicans who years ago wanted to push Grandma off a cliff in a wheelchair (I don’t even remember which election cycle that was from)  are now planning to kill thousands. Where is the pop-up asking me to contact my Congressmen to ask those who support Obamacare or think it didn’t go far enough in socializing medicine whether they look forward to an American Charlie Gard case, where bureaucrats will tell parents where, when and how their children will live or die?

Good Job – Not

July 6th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 82 comments

It is possible that I am simply being curmudgeonly and persnickety, and I’m sure you’ll tell me if that is so, but there are two popular phrases that I would like to rail against. Working with my husband on our Ask the Rabbi column regarding self-esteem vs. self-respect made me wonder if both these ubiquitous phrases are misguided results of the disastrous self-esteem movement.

The first one, “My bad,” has replaced the words “I’m sorry” or “I take responsibility” in many offices. Am I alone in thinking that those words trivialize careless mistakes and poor judgment?

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George and Martha, Frog and Toad

June 29th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

As a young child, one of our daughters had an exceedingly difficult time controlling her temper and her tongue. When I had my act together, I would spin thinly veiled bedtime stories for her about a mice family dealing with the same issues as she and her siblings faced. Listening to those tales allowed her to glimpse storms and mistakes in her own world in a safe and gentle way.

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Jury Duty

June 22nd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 35 comments

I am not sure that I was entirely truthful earlier this week. I’m not sure that anyone else with me in the room was either.

We were together in a courtroom, having been chosen as the pool from which a jury would be selected. The presiding judge asked a series of questions. For each question, if our answer was a yes, we were told to stand up and then he went around the room asking for our juror number, which he jotted down.

Some of the questions were straightforward. Was anyone not a citizen of the United States or not a resident of the city?  Then, after being asked to listen to a long list of police officers’ and detectives’ names, we were asked if we knew any of the aforementioned  people.  But some of the questions were trickier.

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Having it All

June 15th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 42 comments

I got a lovely Mother’s Day card from one of my daughters that brought tears of joy to my eyes, but it also highlighted one of the enemies of successful living.

Among other sweet words, she wrote, “I am only now starting to realize how much of your own life and time and personal pursuits you must have sacrificed to raise us…”

The gratitude is appreciated and the sentiment is lovely. It is also wrong.  It is wrong, not only in terms of motherhood but also in terms of marriage, work and life.

My husband and I once sailed in the Caribbean. When we visited one island, the dock was not only extraordinarily narrow but also in ill repair. It shifted and rocked with each step we took. Being six months pregnant and not quite as nimble as usual, that posed a challenge. What made it even more worrying were the sharks swimming beneath the dock. Falling in the water was not really an acceptable option.

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A Peek Behind the Ivanka and Jared Curtain

June 7th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 74 comments

Shelves in my local library are filled with fictional books set in Amish communities. Considering that there are only about 250,000 Amish in North America, they are way over represented in current literature. I confess to enjoying many of these books. I am obviously not the only one to feel that way. Why are so many of us fascinated by foreign cultures?

Partially because we enjoy peering into the lives of people who live among us but who follow intriguingly different paths.

I am far more cautious about non-fiction. Once, while traveling through Utah, I noticed a book written by a woman who grew up in the Latter Day Saint community but was no longer a part of it. Before purchasing it, I checked with the store owner that it was a loving and respectful depiction rather than a vengeful attack. It was. Every community has its warts, but there is a difference between acknowledging those and distorting the truth in a mission to magnify the negatives of a lifestyle that is a blessing to many.

Books abound about the Orthodox Jewish community. Since I know this community rather well, I am more critical about these books. Actually Orthodox Jews comprise a broadly defined group consisting of dozens of sub-communities, all of which enjoy their own small theological and behavioral distinctions. Sometimes I spot foolish inaccuracies by authors whose research was inadequate; other times the author has a hostile agenda.   Many of these books do not accurately depict my life but nonetheless are authentic expressions of the author’s community, with its own unique blessings and challenges.

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